Not without my daughter
A Canadian woman and her children are essentially being held captive in a foreign country, and the government says it can't interfere in a domestic dispute? Is this the attitude it takes when there's abuse in a marriage here at home? Or are Canadian women second class citizens?
MONTREAL- The mother of a 24-year-old pregnant Quebec woman living in Saudi Arabia wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene personally to get her daughter back to Canada.
But late yesterday, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs suggested it could not resolve what is essentially a domestic dispute.
Johanne Durocher is afraid her daughter, Nathalie Morin, may be forced to give birth prematurely to her third child today, one month before she is due to deliver her baby.
"She wants to come back to Montreal with her children and have the baby here in December," Durocher told reporters, "but she is living with a Saudi, and she can't leave the country.
"She has no telephone, no friends, no family there, and I am concerned for her safety. The man she is living with is cruel and abusive."
Lalonde called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene to see that Morin is brought home safely.
There is concern Al-Bishi may force his wife to give birth today because he wants his child born a Saudi.
"She is a Canadian, not a Saudi citizen and under the Geneva Convention she has the right to leave the country with her children," she said. "I want her home in Quebec with the children."
Actually, it doesn't seem clear that the Geneva Convention is valid here. The Hague Convention could have applied -- but Saudi Arabia didn't sign on.
Saudi authorities indicate that Morin and Al-Bishi are in fact married under Islamic law.
Foreign Affairs spokesperson Eugenie Cormier said yesterday any resolution "needs to be consistent with Saudi laws and regulations. Individuals living or travelling in Saudi Arabia are subject to local laws, irrespective of their citizenship."
Cormier said Canada can only provide consular assistance "after Nathalie and her spouse have reached a consensus on the issue of custody of their young boys."
Oh, like that's going to happen.
Of course, one could argue that young Nathalie should have known better before going to Saudi Arabia with the father of her child. But who knows what transpired between them, and what she was told before she got on that plane?
Women considering relocating to Saudi Arabia should be keenly aware that women and children residing in Saudi Arabia as members of a Saudi household (including adult American-citizen women married to Saudi men, adult American-citizen women who are the unmarried daughters of Saudi fathers, and American-citizen boys under the age of 21 who are the sons of Saudi fathers) are considered household property and require the permission of the Saudi male head of their household to leave the country. Married women require their husband’s permission to depart the country, while unmarried women and children require the permission of their father or male guardian. The U.S. Embassy can intercede with the Saudi government to request exit permission for an adult American woman (wife or daughter of a Saudi citizen), but there is no guarantee of success, or even of timely response. Mothers are not able to obtain permission for the departure of minor children without the father’s agreement.
According to the news report, the Canadian government says it won't even bother to seek exit permission.
But what's this?
As of February 20, 2008, a new regulation went into effect requiring Saudi men seeking the mandatory permission from their government to marry foreign women to sign a binding document granting irrevocable permission for foreign born spouses and children of those foreign spouses to travel freely and unhindered in and out of Saudi Arabia. However, this regulation is not retroactive. Under Saudi law, women married to Saudi men prior to the effective date of these new regulations still need their husbands’ permission to leave Saudi Arabia, and their children still require their fathers’ permission to leave the country.
Since this couple is not married, then where does the retroactivity kick in?
While I am certainly no Islamic scholar, I can't find anything that indicates that this marriage is, you should pardon the expression, kosher under religious laws. The opposite, in fact.
And, even if it is, so what? The government could, at least, try, no?